He has made Me New

Photo on 3-20-14 at 9.52 AMKaitlyn, gentle, broken, restoring, strong and faithful comes to mind.  God is funny and wondrous.  I have a facebook page with a lot of women members that I don’t know.  There are times when HE continuously pops up faces in front of me and I continue to see them.  That’s when I know to PM them and set up a date for lunch.  That is how I got to know Kaitlyn. We hit it off immediately, I knew she was someone that I needed to be part of my world.  I’ve only seen her in body 3 times but with every conversation I see another layer of who God made her to be and watching her discover that for herself.  It’s exciting to watch!  As I said, Kaitlyn has many layers so when I asked her to write her story, the decision had to be made, “which one?”. I’m blessed to be able to share at least the 1st of many stories that Kaitlyn has for us.

Kaitlyn MacMillian:     Life is complicated. It’s often a mess and I think I’ve made a mess of mine. But God knew that about us all. He has come to redeem us from this world of sin that corners us. It seems that I had real love and faith in Christ from a young age. When I was seven, I understood my need of salvation and trusted Christ as my savior. When I look back I think, “Really? Did I really understand how to repent of sin and trust that Christ paid my sin debt so that I could go to Heaven?” I know that I loved Him. And so even though my fleshly living seems to have outweighed my Spirit-filled living, Christ has loved me through it all. His grace has allowed me to grow as a person to have a heart that is more like His. That care never ends.
My mother was a licensed professional counselor so I was psychoanalyzed from a young age. There were some serious reasons that I needed help. But I didn’t fully realize my needs until I was in my teens. When I was only 15, I got pregnant. Sexual promiscuity revealed to my mind that I had been sexually abused by a friend’s father when I was very young. I was so shocked and told my mother. She did not believe it. So when the pregnancy came and my parents made the decision that I should have an abortion, I learned that death begets death. I was responsible for my pregnancy and my abortion because if you’re old enough to have sex, then you are old enough to know what it can lead to. But I was naive. The whole episode led to more misunderstandings with my parents. They were very angry with me. My parents didn’t mean to harm me, but they just did not do a good job with this. Image was important and I came close to blowing ours. My mental health went downhill. I tried to commit suicide and so I was committed to a mental institution for five months. I took my Bible with me. When I got to my room, I opened it up and the Lord showed me:

Isaiah 43:18
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. 

This has been my life verse. Over and over again, the Lord has brought it to my mind. Probably because I am lousy at really following it. But His mercy keeps coming. And I need Him every hour.

Now I have been married for 30 years and have 12 children. IMG_6225 One dozen is a huge number and we never expected to have that many. We have three biological children and nine adopted from Africa. Wow. We have had trouble. Crazy, ceaseless trouble for about 8 years. Now my kids are grown and they are all gone. This new quiet that I had wished for is so unsettling. I home schooled for 25 years. I don’t know what to do with myself. I have a lot of physical illness from not taking care of myself. It has kept me alone too much. And the tale has many extra difficulties.

But I have to learn to live again. I have to learn to continue trusting my great God for the next step. The past does not have the answers for me outside of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But I must focus on the fact that Jesus is alive! He has made me new – every single morning, I’m new right along with His mercy.

Perfect Love casts out all fear. I just have to step out. And all the way, my Savior leads me.

Lord, You are a gracious and loving Father.  I am grateful and I know that Kaitlyn is too.  You have blessed us with family and you have blessed her with a huge heart for those that need love.   I thank you for bringing her into my life and I pray that you will guide our steps in the future.  Amen!

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Possible with God

Screenshot_2018-09-17-14-17-38I’ve known Krista from a far for several years.  The whole time I’ve known her she has been in Kidney failure.  But honestly, you wouldn’t have even known it by her actions and her speech. This little lady never stopped.  She carried on her life as if she were still in her 20’s and care free.  She served others fervently and loved on them more.   Krista is a giver.  You want to know how she did that?  She knows, loves and follows the ONE God that can give you the heart and strength of a giant.  I’m so grateful that God has allowed Krista to be placed in my life.   She has only stopped serving and loving long enough to lay on a table and receive the gift of a kidney herself.  Enjoy her story.
Krista Rodgers:
My kidney transplant Journey.  My go-to Bible verse when I struggle with doubts and fears. Luke 18 27 “And He said the things which are impossible with man are possible with God.”  I have faced many fears and struggles in my life sometimes doubting if there was a God or if there is, was he listening to me. But as a small child my mother was a very Godly woman and she made sure that her children went to church, that they knew about God and how important it was for us to make Him a daily part of our life.
Eighteen years ago I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. The doctors have continued to monitor them since. About 3 years ago my kidneys were functioning at 33%. Several visits later to the doctor my kidney functions kept decreasing and was at 17%.    In February of 2017 I went for a regular visit with the kidney doctor and was told it was time to consider getting on the transplant list. I gave my permission to send my information to both University of Cincinnati Hospital and Jewish Hospital in Louisville. A week or so later I got a letter of rejection from Cincinnati denying  my insurance. Several weeks later I got a phone call from Jewish Hospital telling me I was a good candidate for a kidney transplant work up. In June of 2017 my children, which would be my support team, went with me for classes, and then my blood work started an electrocardiogram, an echo-cardiogram, stress test, chest x-rays, and more blood work. I also needed up-to-date female annual check-up, pneumonia shot, a TB skin test, and then the good old colonoscopy which I put off as long as I could. I finished up all these test by December 2017. While getting my colonoscopy, I contacted the flu. I got very sick and ended up at Clark Regional in the ER where they transferred me to Louisville to be admitted. I was in the hospital for 4 days until I finally recovered from the flu.
I was supposed to see my kidney doctor February 14th 2018. She for some reason called me the week before and wanted to know if I can come in a week early. I went and got my blood work and  before I could get home she called me telling me I needed to be admitted to the hospital my labs were out of control. I was admitted on Tuesday February 6th. My doctor came in and told  me I was in renal failure and would need to start dialysis.  The next day they placed a tunneled catheter into my upper right chest. On Thursday, February 8th, late that evening I started my first dialysis treatment. I was scared, I was nervous and I honestly did not know what to expect. They hooked me up to this machine that would start filtering my blood in 3 hours, a person on their own filters their blood in 24 hours. Not long after the treatment started I became nauseous, started vomiting, a migraine started, I was hot and sweaty, you name it I got it. This went on for three and a half hours.  I was laying in the bed  asking God  why  are you allowing me to suffer like this?  Please Lord just let me die. This is horrible. After my  first dialysis treatment was complete I started, jerking, shaking and I really didn’t know what was going on with myself. My daughter asked, are you okay Mom? I said I don’t know, why did you do this to me, why did you let them do this to me. I just want to die, I’m so sick. The nurse came in to check on me we asked what was happening to me she said the machine was filtering the poison out of my system and it was like a person going through detox withdrawals, like a person addicted to drugs.Screenshot_2018-09-16-22-43-19
I was released from the hospital on Friday, the following Monday I was to report to Georgetown where I would start my next dialysis treatment. I was hooked up to the machine, I got nauseous, I threw up, I got dizzy, light headed and felt terrible for the next three and a half hours same thing again Wednesday and Friday. The doctors kept telling me the treatments would get better and I would feel better after each treatment. It took a whole lot of convincing for me to believe them. I prayed, God why are you letting me go through this?  This is horrible. I stop and I think of how cancer patients can go through chemo, I pray for all the cancer patients wondering how they can do this. I pray for each person in that dialysis room and looking at each with hope, praying that I would feel better soon. In time I truly started to feel better but struggled with a lot of migraines. Then at the end of May I got a call from Jewish Hospital telling me I had been placed on the active transplant list. June 2018 came around and now I had to restart my testing again since it had  been one year.
I  prayed for days, night after night to God for a new kidney. I prayed so much I felt God was getting tired of listening to me, so I stopped praying that prayer.
Screenshot_2018-09-16-22-42-53On Saturday July 21st when I went to bed I felt God needed to hear my prayer again.
Lord it’s me again, you know I need a kidney and I pray it will happen in your time. I pray God it will happen when the time is good for me when I’m healthy enough to receive it. Lord I pray where this kidney comes from that is from a good kindhearted Christian person. I pray Lord for a fast speedy recovery, I pray for very minimal pain and I pray for quick healing. Lord I pray that you will give me Christian doctors and staff to take care of me. Amen.
I went to church the next morning and I told my friend Debbie Johnson, as I had many times, “Debbie if I get a phone call during church I’m coming across the aisle to get you and we are going to interrupt whoever is preaching and pray and then I’m out of here”. Just so happened, Sunday evening at 5:03 p.m. I’m cooking dinner my phone rings I missed the call. A few minutes later my daughter’s phone rings she misses the call. A few seconds later my other daughter’s phone rings same number comes up on caller ID, I said somebody better answer it, she hands me the phone and says, “mom it’s Jewish.” I answer the phone and the nurse says, “Krista I have a kidney for you, it’s a good one are you willing to accept it. It’s coming from out of state so it’s not here yet I will call you back as to what time to arrive at the hospital.”  First person I called  is my kidney doctor,  she tells me she has chills up and down her spine ,  She told me  I was the quickest patient she’s had to get a kidney that fast. The next person I call is my dear, sweet, faithful, praying sister Debbie Johnson , she doesn’t answer the phone with hello she says do we have one? Do we have a kidney? Do we have a kidney?  I pause, I’m crying, I said yes, we have a kidney she starts screaming, yelling in the background Hallelujah, amen, thank you Jesus.  And she prays with me. In the meantime  the nurse calls me back and  tells me to arrive at 6 a.m. on Monday.  I’m being admitted and now it’s a waiting game. The kidney is supposed to arrive by 1 p.m. and it doesn’t get there until 3 p.m. Finally it’s 5:30 p.m. Monday July 23rd and I’m on my way to surgery. I Ask my nurse do you know if my doctor is a Christian? She says I don’t know but I know your anesthesiologist is, and I said “well that’s a good enough”. She said “I am and we will pray before you go back”. She prayed the sweetest prayer with me and a sense of calmness came over me. The next thing I know I’m waking up in my room surrounded by family.
Praying and thanking God for my new gift of life and for the person’s family where this precious gift came from.Screenshot_2018-09-16-22-44-02
I never gave up hope, I kept my faith, and God answered my prayer, in only two short months of being on the active transplant list when most people stay on there for years.
God answered my prayer, everything I prayed for.  I had very minimal pain, I’ve recovered fast and most of all I had a Christian staff, and Christian doctors. And most importantly it all happened in God’s timing. I still pray continually for the person’s family from where this kidney came from. Some kindhearted 23 year old man’s life was called home to God and he was generous enough to donate his kidney so that I may continue life. Lord thank you so much for this person and continued prayers for his family whom I know is still grieving.
1 Thessalonians 5.  In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward.
Lord, Thank you for sparing a beautiful soul.  Thank you for providing the mother, the friends and the family that she would need most in her time of need.   Thank you for loving others enough to allow her to continue her service to them.  I praise you and continue to be amazed by your love for me.   Amen!
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Why Me?

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Latasha “Tasha” Layne : I noticed her from the start. I don’t know, something drew me to her.  I have a feeling it was the Holy Spirit prompting me,  saying, “You need to have this girl in your life!”.  I’ve only had a few brief conversations with her at church and then enjoyed a spirit filled lunch with her this week and I can already tell we will be life long friends.  A kindred spirit! I’m so excited to be able to share her story with you.

My Journey of Faith

God has a plan for each of us. During the journey, we don’t see his works most of the time. At times we feel alone, question God and the existence of him and lose our hope and faith. We may not understand the Why’s on our journey but rest assured that each event or test is meaningful. You go through hardships, trials and tribulations before you even understand what they are. Then as you grow up, you’re left wondering the age-old question, Why me? I asked myself this question more times than I can count, and for over half of my life, I never received and answer.

May 12, 1987, Houston Texas…a random Tuesday, I entered this world. I don’t have pictures of that day to remind me of the love and excitement that surrounded me. I don’t have any memorabilia or videos. What I do have, is the remembrance of a broken family. At age 2 ½ , the state of Texas  came in and removed my siblings and I from our home. The reported abuse became too severe and the state took action. I have 3 full siblings and 5 half siblings, most of which I have no form of contact with. I was placed in a foster home for approximately 6 months, alone. Luckily, I was blessed enough to be adopted by the same family that one of my older siblings was also being adopted by. That is what brought my sister and I to Kentucky.unnamed (1)

I can remember at a young age, questioning God. I had a very hard time trying to wrap my head around why my life had to start off on such a rocky path. Why didn’t my BIO parents want me? Figuring out who I was became a running theme in my life. I had no background, I knew nothing of any family medical history, didn’t know who most of my siblings were and never truly knew my Bio parents. So, who was I? The daughter to drug addicts, the adopted girl from Texas or just a young girl trying to find her place in this crazy world.

Growing up in my house in KY had a lot of ups and downs. My parents, the ones who raised me, never had children of their own. Large family on both sides though. Each had a lot of siblings who then had kids as well. So, gatherings were always a BIG deal. I was your typical Daddy’s girl…he literally hung the moon in my eyes. My Mom and I had a very strained relationship for the most part. When it was good, it was real good..but when it was bad…well you get the idea. The older I got, the more the tension seemed to grow. I was struggling with identity issues, feeling worthless and hiding my true feelings of resentment, pain and confusion. So, instead of turning to people who would help me, I turned to other things to mask the pain. I looked for love and acceptance in all the wrong places and people. Alcohol became a staple in my life as well as relationships that always ended up at a dead end road. I did have a few close friends who I opened up to, but never the bad stuff…never the deep down, gut wrenching hurt I dealt with inside on a daily basis.

You know how everyone has life changing events that alter their whole world and rock them to their core?? Yea, I had several of those in a matter of 2 years. I am convinced that the Devil was trying to end me because he knew that in the future, I would have a HUGE heart for God. At age 17, I unknowingly entered into an abusive relationship…and when I say unknowingly, I mean; this guy masked it so well until he had me hooked. Then he showed his true colors and by then, it seemed too late to leave. Within that relationship was more abuse; physical, mental and sexual. He had beaten down any confidence I had left. My self-worth was practically non-existent and I was so broken, I felt it was beyond repair. But I kept a smile for the outside world to see, because that what I was expected to do. 8 months into the relationship, my Mom too me to my “female” doctor where I found out within a matter of weeks that I had the earliest form of Cervical Cancer. Talk about a punch to the gut. However, the blessing was that it was only on the surface..we caught it just in time.

Now, lets get to the part where the devil truly almost ended me. My Dad, he became sick and after numerous appointments and tests, we really didn’t have any answers. That is, until February 1, 2006, my world fell apart. My reason for existence left me…my Dad passed away from Stage 4 liver cancer. I was lost and for a while after this my life would go in a downward spiral of drinking, bad decisions and attempted suicide. I hated who I had become, I hated being surrounded by so many people but still feeling so alone. I had no answers, I couldn’t understand why God was punishing me, hadn’t I had enough??

At age 19, I found out I was pregnant and then married my daughters Dad (but divorced after 8 years of marriage). At age 20, I gave birth to a beautiful 8lb 6 oz little girl who I say was my saving grace, my new reason for living. It was my first experience at how amazing God was. How amazing she was and even through all my wrongdoings, HE decided I was worthy of this wonderful blessing. The love and bond that my daughter and I shared instantly, was and is unmatchable. I lived for her and I would die for her…and shortly after becoming a Mom of 2, I realized, that is exactly how God feels about us. He was born to be the Messiah, OUR Savior and he died for US. He took all the sin of the world and placed it on the cross with him. WOW! Was I worthy of such mercy and love? The answer to that, is YES!

Many others are like me, grew up trying to find their place in this world, doubting Gods love for us because of the relationships we have with others. Broken relationships, hurt from friends and family or hurt that that we have placed on ourselves, keep us from going down the path that God has lined out for us.  The funny thing is, the answer was there from the beginning. Our place IS with God. I am the daughter of THE KING! I am loved by someone who literally gave their life for me so that I may have eternity with him. (John 3:16) One misconception is that you can make God not love you, but that’s the furthest thing from the truth!! Nothing, and I mean nothing, can change Gods love for you. (Hebrews 13:8)

That misconception has haunted me throughout my journey of faith. The devil is always instilling fear, worry, doubt and confusion into my head and heart…but the stronger I become in my faith, the more I realize, those things aren’t of God! Those are NOT part of his character. God is Love, Grace, Mercy, Compassion, Joy, the list goes on and on. Sure, I had a rough life, there have been highs and lows, but those tests have become my testimony and the hurt and fear have helped lay the brick to my God filled foundation. I am and overcomer, I am not going under and the Devil has met his match. I don’t fight my battles alone anymore, God is in my corner fighting them with me and for me. What a great feeling it is, feeling confident and worthy and not letting fear consume me. I mean, what room does fear have when I lean on hope and when I cling to trust. What room does fear have when I walk by faith and rest in Gods comfort?

unnamed (2)God saved me, in every aspect of my life, he saved me. He restored my hope and faith. He has restored relationships and mended my completely shattered soul. After giving my life to him, I now KNOW all things with him, are possible. (Matthew 19:26). Sure, there are days I grow weary, I may stumble and fall, but in the Bible it states: “But those who trust in the Lord, will renew their strength”. (Isaiah 40:31) I have finally found my place in this crazy life and I no longer question my identity. In God, I have found a Father, a friend, and a companion. I thank him for the blessings and the hardships for they have made me who I am. I have realized that was a reason for my struggles, a purpose for my pain and a reward for my faithfulness. All I have to do is TRUST HIM. So, whatever is it you may be struggling with, know you don’t have to struggle alone. God is reaching his hand out for you, patiently waiting for you to find peace in him.

Stop:

What a blessing your have brought to me Lord.  Thank You!  There are so many that struggle with abandonment, rejections, abuse, drugs and other afflictions Lord but Tasha’s story is testament that You are still mightily at work in our lives.  I pray Lord that Your Spirit will work in me continuously so that I will be brave, compassionate, empathetic and loving to those who are hurting.  I also pray that You will continue to point me towards others who will love me and help me walk this path.  Amen!

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God had a Plan

33830443_10216158022326917_8166564710557155328_nRose Hayes Swope:  Lovely!  That is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Rose.  She is as beautiful as a rose in full bloom.  That might be because she allow Christ to work in her and He formed every petal as a work of art. I also see gentleness, acceptance, love, compassion, empathy, feistiness and even more love.  I am blessed to have her in my life.  Thank you Rose for loving me.

Eastern Kentucky after the depression: “My journey as a Christian” 1940-Present

Mother was an Irish Catholic and married outside the church to a Scottish Baptist.  The nearest church was 25 miles away which was a hard travel in those days.  My dad was an “old regular Baptist”.  They were opposite extremes.   The old regular Baptist didn’t have bible school or anything for children so there were Missionary Baptist that would come into town and did bible schools at the schools during the week.  And they would have bible school on Sundays and pick us up in a van and during the summer they would also have Sunday school.   I did that until the 8th grade, I didn’t convert to Christ but I believed in prayer.   Mom, being a Catholic, relied on prayer and so I believed in it too.  I remember once, I dropped a key in the creek and it was stuck between some rocks.  I had worked, worked and worked to get it and it would not come out.  I remember getting out on the bank of the creek and praying and when I went back it came out real easy.    So I really believed in prayer after that.

My dad continued to go to church but because of the distance they only meet about every 3 weeks and didn’t have anything for children.  My mom would go with him but they never discussed with anyone that she was Catholic.  Mom would sit there and listen to them disgrace the Catholic Church and never would say anything.  She was a meek but knowledgeable lady.   She came from a family that had money because her father was an engineer on the railroad.  Both her parents were dead by the time she was 25 so she would have to go to work, instead of going to college.   She worked at a bank which was progressive for those times.  When the brother that she lived with in Summerset got married, she left and came to Lexington to work.  She worked for a nice clothing store and loved clothing when she saw that Mary Breckenridge (pioneered in mid-wifery) needed a secretary.  People would come from England to Eastern Kentucky to learn to become mid-wives. My mother said nurses would ride horse back to the homes and deliver the babies.  After about 18 months my mom came by bus to Knott County and my father met her on horseback and that was the beginning of my story. 37042554_225500728075807_225216862252695552_n

My dad built our home, a modest log cabin, on the farm where he was raised on and all it cost him was my mom’s last $25, which paid for the stone mason to build the fire place and well.  After I finished grade school my mother bought an old typewriter and got her typing skills back up and applied for a job at the extension office so that my brother and I could go to the boarding school.  Without her willingness to do that I would not

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have had the privileges’ that I had.   And that was a real turning point in my life. My class mates and I were like a big family and we learned a lot of things .  We were able to have jobs for about 10 hours a week and I learned a lot of different trades and some from the Irish heritage. My mom’s parents were married on the boat coming over to the U.S.A and they were Scotch/Irish.

 

I applied for Berea College and I was boarder line being able to attend.  In high school, I wanted to study home economics but my mother wanted me to study Latin.   But I saw it as a dead language so I didn’t see any point in memorizing it.  I got a D in that class and that hurt my score to get into Berea College.  The woman that ran the boarding school fought for me and I was able to get into Berea College.  I graduated high school in the summer of 1958 and I had to take a course in English.  That was another turning point in my life. I still had not accepted Christ but I would go to church on Sundays at the Methodist church.  I’m made up of all these doctrines, a little bit Baptist, a little bit Catholic and little bit Methodist, then later the Christian Church.   That summer there was a girl at Berea taking a summer coarse.  Her parents had attended college there but she couldn’t attend because they made too much money but she would come take courses during the summer. There was a revival going on at the Baptist church and she influenced me to go and that right there is where I became a Christian.  God had it planned out for me. [I sit there as tears are running down her face as she remembers that moment] All the way through college I wanted to be an extension agent.  My clothing teacher wanted me to go to teach at Pine Mountain Settlement School but the school was in nowhere land and I didn’t want to go there but I had the opportunity to go back to Hindman High school, where I attended and teach.   But I really knew that teaching wasn’t what I wanted to do so I graduated with enough points standing to be able to get into graduate school at UK.   I got a job at the extension office, which is the job I really wanted.   But this didn’t come without hard choices.  I had to choose from 2 different counties one being Lee County and one being Powell County.  Of course Mother had been praying through all of this.   I found myself a place to live, which was also a hard choice, but found a room to rent in a home that belonged to a woman in town.   Because of her I am in the Christian Church.  Beulah was like a second mother.  Every day I would come home from work and she would have tea fixed.  We’d sit down and she’d ask, “How was your day?” and I would tell her.  I would pray and write down everything that was bothering me and put it by my head board at night and then I could sleep. Every morning when I would get up I would pray and things got better.   Things continued getting better!  I had an old Chevy II but it was in bad repair so I purchased a Turquoise Oldsmobile and I thought I was flying high.  This was the 2nd car I ever owned.  19554282_110589839566897_3111753390247705797_nEvery morning the girls and I would walk across the hall to have coffee.  I was sitting back at my desk and this guy comes in.   I didn’t know who he was so I asked “Can I help you Sir?” and He said “Yes, I’m Bill Swope, you can help me by giving me a date.”  I said “I don’t know you Sir!”  [As she laughs at the memory.  And we both agree he was bold!]   And so I said I would have to check my calendar and get back with him.  I told the girls and they encourage me to go out with him.  So I decided to go out with him but I was going to pay for my own way and I would have no obligations to him.   The only thing to do at that time was to go to the Natural Bridge and go square dancing and that began our relationship.

Shortly after I went to Detroit for some training on how to deal with inner city and poverty kids and while I was gone he sent me flowers and gifts, he was really romancing me and awaiting my return.   That July we would be married.   We didn’t go to church for a while because he didn’t go to church and later I had a miscarriage.   That is when I was asked to come back to the Christian Church and we started going there.  I taught Sunday school and 5 years later we had our son.   I was commuting between Powell Co and Lexington for 13 years and then the Lord had another plan for me.  My job moved from Clark County, where we built an excellent program at the Extension office.   God keeps working things out.  I was able to move my mom who was failing mentally close to me so I could care for her.

Bill worked as a nurse in the day and then ran the boat business at night.  Our son still has that business in Winchester.  Bill retired when our son was 9.   He would move boats from state to state and one trip he had a cerebral hemorrhage.  I was sitting in the chair praying over some hard issues and I had a vision of him going over in a ravine so I stopped praying and asked the Lord, “Don’t let that not be the answer” and then I got the call.   Bill had the hemorrhage and had been swerving on and off the road at the same time I was praying.   [Tears running down her face as she remembers] I then took a cargo plane to Las Vegas to be with him.  The doctors didn’t give much hope but the Lord continued to answer prayers.

We came back to Winchester and while I worked the men from church came to sit with him.  He was in and out of consciousness for 2 weeks.  He woke up and said “I’m Home!”

But he never was quiet the same.  He had many other medical issues and several near death experiences.  We would pass the time by me throwing him a kiss and him throwing me one back.  That seemed to give him peace.  We just couldn’t give up on him.  “I’m a control freak.  But God healed me of that.  I now know I’m not in control, I know who is in control”.  He has humbled me!  I told my son one day that God put me through all this just to humble me.  Instead of taking him to Hospice we were blessed with a nurse to come to the home.  God kept taking care of things.   The cancer had gone to his bones but the Lord provided what was needed to keep him fairly comfortable.  We were married 47 ½ years.

That has been 3 years and I am still healing.  But God is good!  Shortly after Bill’s death, I talked with Vern Mohr and that is when the Care Team got started. We would provide food and care for the people at church.  Vern was the Leader and I was the food chairperson.

I have lost 7 members of my family in the last several years and it’s been hard.  But my son and my grandchildren are still here. I thank God, He still has me here for a purpose. [Tears still streaming]  I have a journal where I keep a list of those I know who are in need and I pray for them daily.

I now do watercolor painting.

 

This is something that I have always wanted to do. One summer before my husband died I went to UK and took a drawing and painting class.  I meet a friend in class and we became very close.  I have since lost her to cancer also.  I’ve been painting for 10 years.  [More tears]  [We discussed briefly those tears.  Those tears are for cleansing. Then she began encouraging me.  She shared that she believed that I had a God given gift of empathy, not everyone has that gift, she says.]  I know what my gifts are and I’m happy doing it.  It’s clear to me.  It’s listening, service, caring and counseling and yours are too [she says to me], I can tell.

I recently was able to go on a life dream vacation to South America and the Panama Canal.  That is a place that my father traveled and always spoke of.  I dreamed and God made it happen.  While I was on the cruise the locals would ask, “Where are you from?” and I would answer, “I’m just a poor girl from the mountains”.

God humbled me once and I don’t want to be humbled again.  [And she laughed]   I know where my roots are. I know who I am.  When we are professional and people look up to us, we get caught up.  And when I was no longer in that position, I had to find myself.  I feel comfortable in my skin now.  I know whose I am, I know who I worship, and I know what I believe.  Every morning I just say, “God whatever you want me to do. Whatever and where ever”.

One of the things that I have always said to myself a lot through all the times of struggle is this…..

“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into heart of the sea and though its waters roar and foam and the mountain quack with their surging.”  Ps 46:1-3

I would say this over and over and over again.   I also memorized…….

“Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God and he will give you peace that passes all understanding. He will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 4:6-7

Amen!  [Amen]

We get so anxious when we are control freaks.  “Why can’t I fix this?”  “Why can’t I control this?” And I learned it’s not in my power, it’s in His power.   And He has to work through us.  We are his hands and his feet and his mouth piece.

[We discussed God’s timing being perfect. We have to stop trying to control it.  Make things happen when we want it to happen.  Stop trying to always fix things.]

I’ve learned that I can’t change things.  I can’t change people but I can pray for them. God has the plan!

I am moving on………………whatever God has planned for me next!   I still remind myself daily who’s in control of my life.  Christ who gave His life for me, and by His grace I have a home in Heaven.

Humbly, Rose Hayes Swope

Lord I thank you for putting Rose in my path.  Be with her daily as she serves others and encourages them to draw closer to You.  Amen!

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Weakness is a Good Thing

23622376_10213016744707575_4939270649050233599_nAnnie Sotski: This is one spunky little momma!  She almost always has a smile on her face and sweet words to say.  I say “almost” because she also is not afraid to tell you when she is hurting.   She is willing to be vulnerable within her deepest pains and and widest valleys, sharing how God has rescued her through it all.  She does “momma” well.  Loving her husband and kiddos with all her soul.  She also loves others with all her soul.  Able to show love to them and walk with them with a steady arm to hold and gentle voice, reminding them WHO they can depend on.  She’s an oily woman too!  Loves those oils and natural remedies for everything.  I am blessed to call her friend and fellow servant.

Weakness is a good thing. John 3:30 says “He must increase but I must decrease.”

My name is Annie.  I had a plaque on my wall growing up that said it means “gracious one” but I had no clue what that really meant until recently.  I’m not sure we can give grace until we receive it.

Life as a child was sweet and protected. I always knew Jesus and even had many chapters of the Bible memorized at a young age. My parents raised me in the Word and I was baptized at five. I remember being filled with the Holy Spirit as a teenager. I spent time on mission trips and church camps and Bible study…all the things a Christian is supposed to do. BUT, I had to learn in many hard ways that I was just a jar of clay that holds the treasure and not the treasure myself. My pride had to die. All my righteous deeds were like filthy rags.

My testimony is a story of the Father’s grace and His patience as He has and continues to mold me into a woman after His heart. Like I said, God had a hold on me from a very young age. I never really knew what it was like to not believe in Him. I also learned early on to be independent and strong. Being the oldest of seven children with parents who raised us against the grain, gave me firm foundations and high expectations. I had dreams of saving the world. Combine the pride and confidence and knowledge of what was right and true and I was destined to fall. Hard. Even my spiritual gifts are knowledge and discernment. Not using them the right way makes me a judgemental know-it-all. Thankfully, Jesus started working gradually and he sent people and circumstances to chisel and mold.  My mouth got me in trouble many times. At one point, mom had me write down and memorize James chapter 3. Oh the deadly poison of the tongue! My youth pastor sat me down and taught me that words hurt and relationships are far more important than being right. It has taken years to fully understand and apply that.29511477_10213980157632296_7086713042562182451_n

Even when I started to control my tongue and outward pride, I had a habit of trying to fix people. Friends, college roommates, boyfriends… all became my projects to save. Two big relationships happened within a couple of years apart in my early 20’s. My college roommate/friend decided she was in love with me. She saw me as her rescuer because of how much I had done for her. I was engaged at the time to my first husband and thankfully he was my way out of that relationship. My marriage then ended in divorce several years later because my ex-husband became mentally ill and left because he couldn’t handle the responsibility of marriage and fatherhood. I had tried to fix him, too, and the guilt was overwhelming. By 27 I was a single mom without friends. I had to move back in with my parents and start over. Even though I was angry at God for a time, He never gave up on me and has used the brokenness in my life. He didn’t let the bitterness, anger and calluses stay, but I had to see that He was the saviour, not me.

Fast -forward to now. I have come to the realization that I have a long list of broken relationships. Not just the two I mentioned. Some from trying to save people in my own strength and not being able to. Some from conflict and differences of opinion that I was too inept at working through. Some just from God’s grace in protecting me. It is a hard realization. I have spent many hours on my knees in repentance and prayer. I have prayed Psalm 51 with intention, even using hyssop like king David did. I want to move forward in the call on my life to love people in whatever way that looks like. When Isaiah saw the Lord in his holy temple and cried out because he was a man of unclean lips, the angel touched his lips with coal and said “your sin is atoned for.” (Isaiah 6) My sin is atoned for. I have to put the past behind me, but that means working through many painful memories. Your sin can be atoned for, but the damage can still be there, even hidden in your physical body. Thankfully, God is the gracious one, not me. He is faithfully patient and consistently kind. Release and surrender to Him are my choices. I am willing to go and sin no more.15844228_10210353186120275_7538725651364315894_o

Recently, a friend prayed that those old injuries and memories causing damage would come out. God has brought me through a cleansing process that has included my spirit, my emotions and my body. I had real breakthroughs with some physical pain and emotional blocks because I worked on them together as He brought to mind the past. I could deal with old hurts that had been buried in a gradual and complete way. Part of the process is what lead me to see the string of broken relationships. What has been amazing is that God has now given me opportunity to heal and restore some of those relationships. He is creating a new pattern. It isn’t even as hard as I imagined it would be. When the joy of the Lord is your strength, you can easily part waters and move mountains.

Now, I am working with a young lady that isn’t a Christian and mentoring her through some very difficult times. I have good boundaries in place and know I can’t save her or be her Holy Spirit. I’m just here to be Jesus’ hands and feet and intercede in prayer for her. That’s quite a change from 20 years ago when I walked out my door to save the world. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has sent me to bring good news, bind up the broken and proclaim liberty to the captives. (Isaiah 61) The Truth is what sets people free. All I have to do is abide in the Word and know the truth. (John 8) Now I am a sower of the Word and people can call me Annie, “gracious one”. I bring grace because it was given. I’m just a transparent jar of clay that holds a treasure beyond compare. May I overflow to all around me.

Lord, I am grateful! I am grateful to not only provide for my physical needs but you provide for my emotional needs through other women like Annie.  Help me be that for others.  Amen!

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Preacher’s Kid

J28378557_10160318267525495_6813805649657481212_neanye Mercer:

I’ve known Jeanye for almost 40 years.  It’s been quiet some time since we’ve lived close to each other and the last time I physically seen her was in 2003 but she is always on my heart.  Even though our childhood lives were very different, we started out our young adult lives the same, married and trying to figure out exactly what that looked like. We both have learned a lot about life over the last 40 years, we both have grown our personal relationship with God, seen some weaknesses in ourselves, sought healing, love our children and adore our grands.   God has made us more than conquerors.  Romans 8

I’m the preacher’s kid.

I’m 55 years old, and that’s still one of my favorite descriptors. I have the faintest memories of a time before my dad was a preacher, but not many. When I was between 2 and 3 he enrolled in preacher’s school. (That’s the fancy way the church of my upbringing described seminary.) I remember him studying the Old Testament kings and prophets – and all the important begats. And I remember many evenings spent with their new best friends (who eventually became their old best friends) eating goulash and laughing. There was always lots of laughing!

I remember traveling with my family on Sunday mornings so Dad could either preach as a guest – or on the more stressful occasions “try out” for the preaching position. Mom would get Jamye and me up early, tease our hair in French poodle buns complete with clip on barrettes and pack our cinnamon toast and chocolate milk to go. We ate many a roast for lunch on those days at the family’s house whose turn it was to entertain the traveling preacher and his family. Then we would have Sunday night church and drive home late that night. On one of those Sunday nights we stopped at Dairy Queen for burgers, fries and chocolate shakes. Dad managed to back into a pole in the parking lot (he could tell you exactly what car he was driving) and all our shakes spilled into our laps. I’m not sure we were all laughing at that point. However, we’ve laughed many times over the years about that memory.

26993301_10160183671985495_3501762350244674524_nI remember vividly the night my Dad baptized me. I must have been in 3rd or 4th grade because I was wearing the long calico dress Mom had sewn for me to wear when performing with the world famous ukulele ensemble, Pickers and Plunkers. Many years later he would baptize both of my children. He performs all the family weddings and those of friends who are like family. He also blesses those in our circle who have died by speaking the most gracious words of acknowledgment and love to the grieving  friends and family left to honor and celebrate life. Anytime we need important, moving words for an occasion, Dad is our go-to guy.

My favorite memory from my childhood years of Dad’s preaching is such a simple one. Following each service Dad would walk to the back of the auditorium during the closing prayer and greet each member on their way out the door. We called it “shaking them out.” Jamye and I would wait off to the side because we knew our turn was coming. Dad would give us a big grin and a bigger hug and we would lock up and head home until the next time the church doors opened. (Cause you know a preacher’s kid is there every time the doors are open!)

It wasn’t all unicorns and cinnamon toast. Money was often short. Demands on the preacher and his family were often many. Dreams and plans were sometimes destroyed by the relocating that was common among preachers back then. But don’t worry! Every time we were asked to leave, there was a potluck luncheon, a homemade quilt and all 4 verses of Bless Be the Tie that Binds were sung to soften the blow. (Perhaps I have a tiny bit of bitterness hiding out in these memories.)

The gifts of being a preacher’s kid are many. My family and I have friends near and far who love us dearly and hold our memories as treasures. We sing great 4-part harmony – even acapella. We know a bit of Bible trivia – definitely more than the average Jeopardy player. And we are good people to have around during tough times.

There is one gift that easily stands out among the others. It is this: I never doubted my Dad’s love. Ever.  (even when I questioned and eventually left the church of our upbringing). Because of that extraordinary love, and the many years of listening to Dad preach words of grace and mercy to his people, I am able to accept the truth that God the Father loves me unconditionally as well. That’s extraordinary. Life altering. Undeniably central to all that I am or will ever be. And I am grateful. So very grateful.

I’m a preacher’s kid. My Dad’s kid. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.25594411_10160025151805495_7821467540334020693_n

You can find the art that Jeanye has created @ https://www.facebook.com/JeanyesArt/?pnref=lhc.  Art has been one way that she has been able to dig deep and heal.  Look her up on Facebook and encourage her.  If you find something you love, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.

 

Lord, I thank you for bringing people in my life who are going to challenge me.  I thank you for reminding me that we are all fragile, in need of your love.  I ask  you to continue to be with Jeanye and her family.  Wrap your arms around them.   Amen!

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My Miraculous Journey

 

 

13007201_10209328508989193_1485573346067823033_n13/1/18 Amber Fields Hull:  A Beautiful Soul, that is who she is.  That is who I see but not for only that reason, simply because she is God’s child.  I have known Amber just a few short years.  I have seen a person who was so broken bloom into a woman who realizes her worth in God eyes.  A person who takes all the past ugly and is making the future beautiful.

My past is shameful to say the least. I was a drug addict from the time I was 15 years old. I didn’t find true Recovery until I was 30. By 20 I was a full-fledged junkie who would do anything to maintain my buzz. I was a natural at lying, stealing, and manipulating doctors to get an unheard of amount of pills. I am not proud of who I was. The cops would always tell my grandparents that I would end up in 1 of 2 places: prison or 6 feet under. I believed it myself! Nobody had any hope in me and I had no hope in myself. That is until God redeemed me and all my hope is now in him! This is my story…

I was raised in a good home by my grandparents. My mom died when I was 6 months old and my dad was an alcoholic so he gave me to my grandparents. I’m so grateful they raised me. I was taught right from wrong, went to church regularly, and knew good morals. But that wasn’t enough to protect me from myself.

E5F49097-33CD-4680-8567-61375F42C16CI met my first husband while I was selling pills. We got along great and loved each other very much. However, we loved the drugs way more. A couple years after we started dating we were both arrested on drug charges. I was in jail for almost 4 months. This was the cleanest I had been since I was a teenager. I started reading the bible and attending Celebrate Recovery every Wednesday, mostly because they brought us coffee.  Even though I went for the coffee, the seed was planted.

Once out of jail we actually stayed sober together for a couple years. We started going to church, got married, and had goals for a future. But my old ways kept trying to creep back in. One night I begged him to get high with me. He finally agreed and we did way too much considering we hadn’t done any in a while. Rob (my husband) told me he was going to lay down for a nap. I thought nothing of it and ran to the store. When I got back and went to check on him it was something I will never forget. He was laying in his own fluids, gurgling, and as I tried to wake him up I realized something was very wrong. By the time the paramedics came it was way too late. They tried but Rob was braindead. I would make the decision to pull the plug that evening. I will never forget that night. The picture of him lying in our bed is forever engrained in my mind. I still miss him every day. I thought my life was over when I lost Rob. But a few months later I finally let God help me.

I had made the decision to try and get sober again and this time I wanted to stay that way. I checked myself into detox and was there for a week. Once I got out I knew I needed to stay on track. I changed all my friends, didn’t visit the places I used to, and started attending meetings every chance I could. I began attending the Celebrate Recovery that Juanita (the lady who came to jail) helped lead at. 5AE7EA45-297C-4EDD-B466-BB3EAA51F4E3I dove into a step study, built a support team, took leadership training as much as I could, and built a relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I realized that if I kept coming back I could be successful in recovery.

God really blessed me by putting Juanita in my life. When I was 6 months sober I approached her about an idea I had to honor Rob and others lost to overdose. She listened to me and believed in me. We began meeting once a week and the Rally4Recovery came to fruition. That September we hosted our first Rally4Recovery. We had a free spaghetti dinner, worship music, live testimonies, a kid’s zone, a remembrance walk for those lost to addiction, and a 5k race. It was a weekend long event that was for the whole family. It was extremely successful because God showed up! This September will be the 3rd annual Rally4Recovery and it’s amazing to see what God does each year!

When I first lost my husband I ran into a guy, Brandon, whom I had went to elementary school with. In fact, he was my first ever boyfriend. He became my best friend during that dark time.  We decided to get sober together and eventually began dating. It was very rocky at times but God had his hand in it and he gave us both the opportunity to go through step studies. I know that is what saved our relationship and I’m so blessed we listened! It’s amazing the progress we can make if we let God have control of our lives.

In August of 2017 I found out I was pregnant. I was perplexed. Rob and I had tried for 10 years to have a baby to no avail so I just assumed I couldn’t have kids. I was shocked but so excited I could barely stand it! God blessed us with the most beautiful baby girl on April 25, 2017. She was beyond perfect. She brings us so much joy!

16B530E0-6F41-4E76-B841-20EFC2E50DC0Brandon had another 8 year old daughter from a previous relationship that he only got to see every other weekend. God gave us the opportunity to step up and get primary custody of her so we ran with it! We adore her and I love her just like my own. She is an amazing child with a bright future. You see God is in the chain breaking business. We never thought, because of our pasts, that we could win custody of her. God is faithful!

We have dreamed of being homeowners for years but because of bad credit due to our addiction we thought it would be a long while before that dream would be a reality. Boy God is amazing isn’t he? He placed a couple in our lives who took a chance on us. We are now homeowners! Our children can grow up in a house that we own and that just makes me ecstatic.

I worked to pay off a great car when I first got sober so my car is dependable. Brandon, however, was driving an old beat up Toyota that was dangerous to drive. One night at bible study our friends asked us to stick around for a few minutes. They went on to tell us they had prayed about what to do with a 2012 Chevy car they had and God had told them to GIVE it to us. I had become so anxious about him driving that old car but why? God has always taken care of us!

Brandon and I became husband and wife on January 29th, 2018. We were married at our church (Grace Baptist) right before our Monday night Celebrate Recovery meeting. We were surrounded by all of our friends and family who had worked together to pull off the most perfect wedding. We didn’t pay for a thing and yet it was absolutely spectacular! We had a beautiful cake, a photographer, an amazing dinner, and I wore a stunning dress. You see, when you make things right in God’s eyes, he works out the details.

Ever since Juanita and I hosted the first Rally4Recovery our goal has been to start a recovery center in our town. We now have that center, all glory to God!  We named the center A*R*T (Achieving Recovery Together). We are working hard to combat the addiction epidemic. We hope to help as many people as possible find recovery. We want to serve those that most people have given up on just like who I was before I found recovery….image

We will soon be starting an Angel Program at our local emergency room. We will visit with those that overdose and talk to them about their recovery options. Our goal is to get them into rehab but if nothing else we will be planting a seed. In April we are having an art contest with our local schools for Alcohol Awareness month. The students will decorate paper grocery bags and return them to us. They will then be given out to customers by our local grocery stores. Anything we can do to get the message to our community! In December we will be having a Christmas party for local kids whose parents are in rehab because of drugs/alcohol. To celebrate them for one day and hopefully let them have a good day without worry of the future.

All these things I have been able to accomplish have nothing to do with me. God has blessed me with every single one of these opportunities. None of this would be possible without him. He has blessed me beyond anything I ever imagined. Beyond anything I have ever hoped for. I want to glorify his name in all that I do. Having a servant’s heart is important to me. I owe God everything. I want to be his vessel. I want to spread his love.

C0E39874-5A54-4E50-ABE8-9BA3050C3583I now am a certified Adult Peer Support Specialist, I have my recovery support specialist diploma, and will soon be a licensed recovery coach. God has made me what I am today. I am no longer a hopeless junkie. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and most importantly a child of God.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Isiah 4:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

Lord, Thank  you for placing me in Amber’s life and in the lives of others who continue to amaze me in their growth and service to you.  Also helping me remember that with You everything is possible.  Amen!

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He Filtered it, Felt It & I give Him Glory

Juanita Everman:   I met Juanita soon after moving to Kentucky.  She was an energetic women with a push to help those who struggle, like none I had ever witnessed.  Quickly after is when she was told of her cancer and started treatments.  We’d have private lunches at her home during the day and pray and talk and pray and talk.  This was a time that we became real with each other.  We have very similar stories of struggle and because of Jesus we also have very similar stories of victory.  I’ve been blessed to call her friend and look forward to many more years of praying and talking.

IMG_4501This is my God story.  How He didn’t give up on me and how He has carried me through my trails to see the joy on the other side.

I knew of Jesus and went to church some as a child.  By the time I was in elementary school we quit going to church.  I wouldn’t seek Jesus until I was so desperate and hopeless in my life.  I became a Christ follower at 43.

His word says in Romans 5:3 – 5 says Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character;character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom has given us.  I love this verse – it tells me that life is not going to be all roses when we serve Him.  It tells me we will have troubles and suffering, but – look what we gain HOPE AND JOY.

My life has been full of suffering, some from my own choices and some from life. I was sexually abuse as a child.  It was hard to have safe feelings in intimate relationships.  I had no self-worth and I was afraid to express my feelings and stayed in harmful relationships to long.  I have been married three times and divorced twice. My husband and I are celebrating 27 years of marriage and 21 years of sobriety.

Before turning my life over to Jesus I lived in the world.  I took everything it had to offer and lived my life taking chance after chance.  I had so many troubles and I had no idea how to fix them.  This life was of my own doing.  I had to suffer the consequences of my actions.  That was my choice, my fault.

How do you keep on living and have hope when you’ve just been told you have cancer? I thought I was doing every thing right.  I was living for Christ.  Giving my all and now what? My first diagnosis was in 2013. 172 I went into surgery for a fibroid tumor and when I woke up I was told I had stage 2a Ovarian Cancer.  The next few months were very hard.  I tried to keep my focus on positive things.  The chemo treatments made me so weak and sick I didn’t think I could continue them.  And then I would think of my husband and children how could I leave them.  How could I not do everything I can to get well.  It was hard not to get in that dark place where I would give up.  Its hard to describe the feeling of just wanting it to be over, not wanting to be so sick.  But yet not wanting to give up.  I only went out to go to church and that was not that often.

It was because of God’s Word and my sisters and brothers in Christ that I was able at stay positive and make it through this trail.  I kept asking God what I was to do or to learn.  I realized all the pain and suffering He had gone through for me – for us all.  That no matter what I went through He had already been there.  He knew what I would go through and He was there to comfort me and give me the strength and hope to get through it.  I started serving at Celebrate Recovery as soon as I could and going into the jail to do CR Inside.

In January 2017 my cancer had returned.  There was one spot and the only way to reach it was surgery.  I was heart broken.  Why again?  I had all the fears and doubts again.  The sinking lost feeling of dying.  But I prayed Your will not mine.  I was ready.  I didn’t think after the first time that I would face it again.  After surgery I made the decision not to go through chemo again.  It was one spot.  I would leave it up to my Heavenly Father.  I am seeing a holistic doctor and I have changed the whole way of take care of myself.  This is very hard also.  Especially when it seems everything is geared around food!!  I take my own food a lot or just eat at home.  I have tried so many times to lose weight only to fail.  I have lost so much weight – I didn’t even notice because my focus was on living a healthy life and not my weight.  I wanted to live for Christ and my family.

September 2017 I had a CT scan come back with a spot on my lung.  I prayed and prayed.  I had a PET scan to see if anything was there.  This was just before my youngest daughters wedding and also the Rally4Recovery.  I had to stay busy.  I couldn’t think about what the news would be.  I was ready to give up.  I had fought all I could fight.  If it was back – I would let God guide me on what steps to take.  I started to think about the things I needed to get in order.  What I had to take care of so I would be prepared.  But with in few seconds of feeling like giving I heard a small voice.  YOU CAN’T GIVE UP! YOU HAVE TO MUCH TO DO!!

The spot did not show up on the PET scan.  I was so grateful to God.  I choose not to have the following CT and PET scans three months later.  My blood work was good and I decided I would except that as answer that everything is ok for now.  God is so good.  God is so good.  I listened again to that small voice that I heard in 2013 to have the pain checked out.

I listened and I didn’t give up!   I was working on a non-profit organization with a friend.  An organization that carries out recovery-focused community education and outreach programs, and peer-based recovery support services.  It is in the process of starting.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve those in need.

IMG_4704I choose today to take each trail as a way to look at what is going on in my life and how can I direct it back to Jesus.  He has already filtered it, He has felted it.  Now I have to use it to glorify my Lord and Savior!  God never waste a hurt.

Lord, I thank You for my friend.  I ask that You will continue to bless her life as she continues to give You glory.  I pray for those around her that are influenced by her gentle and loving spirit.  Amen!

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But I trust YOU

IMG_3385Tamara Barron:  Known to me as “Tami”.  I’m so proud of her!  I met her the 1st night she came to Celebrate Recovery and oh, what a difference from then to now.  The smile on her face today can light up a room but there was no smile then.  We have had lunch, talked life and walked (figuratively) a long path of healing together and I can’t say enough about her.  She’s energetic and creative, determined and confident but most of all she now understands how much God loves her and that is making her path more joyful.  Excited to see where HE takes her.

I was born on December the 29th, 1970 in Lexington, KY.  My mother was a house wife and my father was an architect for a large firm.  At six years old, I started having petit mal seizures, and at nine years old, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, and started having severe anxiety.     Junior high and high school were kind of a blur to me.  I tested into the first advanced placement program in Lexington, but did not fit in very well with the other students.  By the time I was in ninth grade, I had alienated myself so bad from everyone that I became depressed and saw no joy in life at all.  I was 15 when I first contemplated suicide.

In high school, I began learning about the occult, Satanism, and witchcraft.  I felt powerful over my situations by scaring people, and became obsessed with vampirism, and horror movies.      I was a promising classical pianist, and an artist, but wasted a lot of time experimenting with witchcraft, drugs, and alcohol. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  Deep down inside, I knew that the way I had been living was wrong, but my fascination with the occult began to control my life.  I became scared to even leave my room, and I was committed to a psychiatric ward when I was 18.  I dedicated my life to God during this time and began to attend church.

I met my first true love shortly after leaving the psychiatric ward.  He seemed like a very nice guy, but I quickly put my relationship with him before God.  After only a few months into our relationship, however, he was arrested and sent away.  I fell into a deep depression, and when it came time to start college, I couldn’t do it.

I did eventually go to college, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and became a lab manager despite being formerly diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy in 1996.  During this time period, I met and married my first husband.  He was my dream guy; a hard rock guitar player who was witty, fun, and very handy with power tools.  Our relationship was tumultuous, however, and maintaining a relationship with God become impossible.  I gave God up to make my atheist husband happy.  This was the beginning of my codependency.

In the fall of 2001, we purchased a Queen Anne Victorian house built in 1898.  We worked every weekend for several years trying to restore our dream home.  In 2006, tired and weary from struggling to make ends meet, we started drinking every night to “take the edge off”.  It wasn’t long before the alcohol started causing many nights of yelling at one another like children.  But, I told myself everything was fine.

In 2009, my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  My drinking got worse during this time, and it was a common occurrence for me to drink ¾’s of a bottle of wine before bed. My boss and my husband were both verbally abusive, and I felt powerless in my situation.  If God loved me, why did he make me suffer?  So I decided He didn’t exist, and embraced atheism.

I finally left my job of 13 years in the spring of 2010 to help care for my mother, and my husband and I fought nonstop about it.  With her death in 2011, I was just defeated.  I drank until I passed out every night. I tried to be the best house wife I knew how, taking all the responsibilities around the house.  I began writing my first novel, and also created many original works of art which I sold in local art fairs.  I was trying, but it wasn’t enough for my husband.  I was lonely, sad, and felt unloved.  In fact, I really didn’t know what being loved felt like.

My husband grew more distant over time.  One night in late 2014, I confronted him about it.  We broke out into an alcohol-induced argument.  After that night, he started going to bars at random, telling me I had to stay at home.  Finally, after a month of this, he said he was done with our marriage.  I went to my sister’s house to calm down, and when I returned the following morning he was gone.

I sank to floor, and it finally hit me that my whole life as I knew it, was over.  My job had failed, my husband had left, and without income, I would lose the house I worked so hard to fix up.  I shook uncontrollably.  The divorce papers came in the mail, and I was being force to sell the house and split the money with him.  I was in such shock that I couldn’t eat, sleep, or move and all I did was sit in a chair all day and drink and cry.  I attempted to go back to work, but soon realized I couldn’t maintain a job and drink what I needed to drink to keep from shaking. I wanted to die.  I would sit in the dark with my wine glass, and contemplate suicide.

One morning, I staggered into CVS to purchase some more wine, and when I took it to the counter, I broke down crying and told the lady that I didn’t want to drink anymore but I didn’t know how to stop.  She asked if she could pray with me.   So there we were, in public, a nice lady and very broken down, atheist woman, praying to God for healing.  She then told me about Celebrate Recovery, a faith based twelve step program.       IMG_0805

I continued drinking for a year, but in the Fall of 2015, I was at rock bottom. I made an appointment to detox, and found out that I was one month form cirrhosis.  Without the alcohol, the pain that I had numbed for so long hit me hard.  I knew I could not do this alone, and decided to go to Celebrate Recovery.

The first night I went in, I couldn’t believe all of the people there that were just like me.  Then I heard the first step for the first time.  Step one states, “We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors and that our lives have become unmanageable.”  At 92 pounds, 2 packs of cigarettes, and two bottles of wine a day, it was a miracle I was sitting there.  But that word powerless… All I wanted was power to control my situations, to only come in here and hear that I was powerless?  But then I heard step 2 which reads, “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

The one thing I learned about recovery is that it hurt, it wasn’t easy.  I suffered with horrible anxiety and a hole in my heart left from my ex.  But the more I went to the meetings, the better I felt.  I joined a step study, and I admit, the first time I opened my bible, I cried so hard the pages were wet.  My pride was hurt.  But Jesus had the patience to wait while I swallowed my pride, and slowly allowed him to fill that painful hole in my heart.  He started by first whispering in my ear John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes unto the father except through me.”  I realized that I had to let my past go and accept Christ back into my life.

I began listening to contemporary Christian music.  It calmed me, and the dark, sad songs in my head were replaced with songs of inspiration, and undying love that Jesus showed us on the cross.  I read several devotionals a day, and repeat the serenity prayer when things get tough.  My sponsor, accountability partners, and step study leaders and sisters have been a true blessing to me.  When I feel down, I reach out. God put a new Christian man in my life, and we were married on June 3, 2017.  I have learned that life is about choices. I choose to remain sober.  God cannot make me do it, but he can help me make a daily commitment to turn my will over to Him.    I still struggle with anxiety, but when it hits, I remind myself of Mathew 6:34 which states: “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Live one day at a time.”

I thought I was hopeless, and now I am a leader at Celebrate Recovery.  The changes I have made in my life are possible for anyone who turns their life over to Christ.  I know that there is no depth of sorrow or darkness that Jesus Christ cannot reach.  Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”  I have found in all my feelings of powerlessness that the true power comes in just saying, “Lord, I don’t know where I am going or how to get there, but I trust You.” by: Tami

 

Lord…………You are so good.  I’m grateful for the people that you put in my life who encourage me to keep going just by the way they live their lives.  Amen

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Nothing Short of Amazing

Crystal Nickell:  As I sit and tear up while sitting  in a board meeting with Crystal, I know that her story will touch your heart too.  To be around her today, one would think that she has had the posh life.   But as you will hear, it’s hasn’t always been that way.  We all know what is showing on the outside is not always what is happening in reality.  I’m so thankful that I have been able to be apart of her sharing her story.  I’m so grateful that she was willing to stand up for her child when possibly no one else was.  To know her is to love her.

IMG_0834 (1)Recently a question was posed to a small group of women, in which I was a part, “Can you say you are 100% prolife with no reservations?”  My mind drifted back 12 years earlier.  I was sitting alone in a very small, cold office.  I waited for a doctor I had never met to walk in and discuss this life I was currently carrying.  I would have rather been a million different places as to where I was that day.  I was seated on a leather, green couch that made terrible noises if I moved the least bit.  There was a table in front of me and a seat to my right.  The door had only enough room to open.  I’m not sure why I remember these miniscule details.  Maybe I was trying to keep my mind off why I was even there.

My husband and I were married in October 1997.   In June 2000 we had our first bundle of joy.  Our beautiful daughter came into this world and turned ours upside down.  We never knew how much love you could possibly have for a child you just met.  We worried over every single detail like stuffy noses, whimpers in the middle of the night and falls that didn’t really amount to anything.  We were definitely the typical first time parents.  And despite our every effort to keep her little forever, she started her senior year of high school just this week as I’m writing this.

In 2004, we found out we were going to have another child.  My husband was self-employed which meant if he didn’t work, he didn’t get paid.  So because we knew the drill, or so we thought, the day of my scheduled ultrasound I decided to go alone.  I promised to call him and reveal the gender as soon as I could.  He had never said the words aloud, but I knew he was hoping for a baby boy.  And I have to say so was I.

IMG_0838I arrived at my appointment and once called back, the radiologist went to work.  I heard the heartbeat and looked at the fuzzy image on the screen.  She told me very soon the gender was male and I couldn’t wait to call my husband and give him the exciting news.  She then asked me to have a seat in the waiting room.  I can remember sitting there looking at the pictures of my precious baby boy anticipating his delivery.  It wasn’t long until my name was called again.  This time my ob-gyn was waiting for me in the room I had just been in minutes earlier.  He told me the radiologist had spotted something on my baby and he had confirmed it was a cyst on his brain.  He went on to say a lot of doctor terms hard for me to understand, but it all came down to my son had a possibility of being born with a birth defect.  The joy I had felt vanished and replaced with fear of the unknown.  I had opted against, just like I had with my daughter’s pregnancy, to have an amniocentesis testing early in the pregnancy.  I now wondered if the results from that would’ve warned me for this type of news.  Before I left, he made me an appointment with another office that could take more in-depth pictures and be able to describe fully our situation.

I remember getting in the car and just crying out to God.  This was not the news I wanted to call and discuss with my husband over the phone.  My mind just couldn’t embrace everything I had been told, but it was getting late and I knew he would just end up calling me soon.   I dialed his number and began to weep.  Heaving between fragmented sentences, I finally shared the news.

IMG_0844The appointment my ob-gyn had made for me was only a week later, but the days before dragged on what seemed like forever.  This time my husband wasn’t going to let me go without him.  For as much as I can remember about this time in our lives, there is much I forget and probably for good reasons.  We arrived at this new office and got into a huge argument as we were parking.  I have no idea today what it was over, but I assume all the fears and apprehension we both had felt over the past week had surfaced and I wouldn’t allow him to go back with me when my name was called.  Being stubborn and proud are two things the Lord continues to work on in me and I despise I would allow such qualities to show at such a vulnerable time.

Just as a week earlier, I was alone, but now with a new radiologist performing an ultrasound.  She moved the cold device all around my stomach staring at the monitor where we both viewed a little life moving.  Once she finished, I was lead to the small office I described earlier to wait for the doctor.  I was so angry at myself for arguing with my husband and not allowing him to go with me and in general ashamed for acting so foolishly.  I needed and wanted him to hear every detail alongside me.  Finally, a tall, slender man entered the room and immediately began talking.  His words were swift and very precise, “The ultrasound shows a cyst on your baby’s brain.  Under Kentucky law if you want an abortion we have to move fast because of where you are in your pregnancy.”  I sensed the room becoming even smaller than it already was.  Did I really hear him say “abortion and move fast”?  Since I was the only other person in the room I had to answer so I softly replied, “Abortion is not an option for me.”  His eyes never looked away from my chart as he explained I would come back each month to discuss the cyst’s progression.  I walked back to the waiting room to find my husband.  I was able to hold back the tears until we were in our vehicle and I began to tell him every detail.  Month after month we went back to this dreadful place together and would hear there was no change.  In a way this was encouraging because it wasn’t getting bigger, but it wasn’t getting smaller either.  We continued to pray and called on many family and friends to do the same.

The last ultrasound performed was very close to my due date.  I watched the radiologist for any type of different expression, just as I had done at previous visits.  She stepped out of the room not long into our visit and returned with the doctor who then began to stare at the screen with us.  “There’s nothing there”, he said.  I remember wondering if I had been dreaming because he couldn’t have possibly said what I thought I heard.  But the cyst was completely gone.  The feeling that came over me is hard to describe in words.  I felt lighter than a feather, even though my belly was bulging in every direction.  The burden of worrying and wondering had vanished.  God had heard our pleas and completely healed our baby boy just in time for his arrival and I imagine He chuckled at my response of unbelief since for months we had fervently prayed for this very outcome.

Kyle, my second child, was born in May 2005 healthy and weighing close to 10 lbs.  Since then, I often find myself asking the same questions.  What if I had never attended church; What if I had never gone to Sunday school as a small girl and memorized the words to Jesus Loves Me; What if my husband and I had never asked Jesus to live in our hearts years before all these events took place?  Since my life began, God was preparing me for an exact moment where I would choose life for another.

Things tend to come fairly easy for Kyle.  He can walk into a room and instantly create a friendship, good grades and athletic ability come naturally.  His zeal for life is quite evident.  Numerous people have told me, “There’s something special about that kid” and silently, I agree with them.  I know the enemy fought hard by trying to cause doubt, discouragement and bringing up the word “abort” so nonchalantly.  God’s plan for Kyle’s future must be nothing short of amazing.  Just as it is for every life He creates.  I am beyond blessed He chose me to be a mother to both my children.  They have made my life truly amazing.

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For I know the plans I have  for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

I thank You Lord for giving us Grace.  I thank You for providing us with truth that will guide us in our walk daily.  I ask You to be with those who are struggling with a pregnancy crisis, whether it is a possible illness, as Crystal’a was or a family crisis.  You love those little ones before they are even formed.  I ask You to protect them.  Amen!

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